Iron is a compound that is naturally found in many different kinds of foods. From these iron-rich foods, the body can hold iron in two different structures: non-heme and heme. Heme iron comes from animal flesh foods (such as meats) and it is the form of iron which the body absorbs the most. Non-heme iron comes from plant foods and, comparatively to heme iron, it is absorbed at a much lesser rate. Once in the body, non-heme iron is converted to heme iron and transported throughout the body. Every tissue in the body needs iron, so there are multiple benefits of iron consumption.
Iron is an extremely important vitamin that provides multiple benefits and is necessary for a lot of bodily processes. First of all, Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin. This means that iron plays a huge role in oxygen transportation and storage. Iron is the part of hemoglobin that carries oxygen, so hemoglobin without iron can’t carry oxygen to tissues of the body (every tissue of the body needs oxygen). Iron also serves as a component of myglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to muscles. This is extremely important during exercise when muscles need to be replenished with oxygen, as well as important for preventing fatigue.
Iron also plays an essential role in cognitive development. Since iron is needed for the proper functioning of multiple enzymes in nerve tissue, without it the nervous system would not allow for sufficient cognitive development.
Cytochromes are a type of protein responsible for energy metabolism, detoxification, neurotransmitter and hormone synthesis, and cellular regeneration. Iron is needed for cytochrome function, so without needed amounts of iron many essential body processes would not work sufficiently.
A major iron deficiency condition is Anemia, which is when there are not enough red blood cells or not enough hemoglobin for oxygen transport. Side effects of this condition can be fatigue, weakness, pale skin, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, cognitive problems, and/or headaches. Of course, these symptoms range depending on the severity of anemia. Anemia can be treated by the taking of daily iron supplements, however in more severe cases medical procedures might be necessary.
Research done by: Ms. Jennifer Duffy